Learning Curve, The Great War
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Useful notes: Source5
Extract from the war diary of the 1/5th Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment, 1915
(Catalogue ref: W0 95/2686)
  • This source comes from a war diary. War diaries were not the personal diaries of soldiers in the trenches. They were official documents in which the commanding officers of units recorded what the units did on each day.
  • The diary contains a wealth of useful information about what this unit was doing. It shows the movement of the unit to different parts of the front.
  • There are numerous references to billets, where soldiers spent a lot of time. These were usually farmhouses or other buildings used as accommodation by soldiers who were not on front line duty. If there were not enough buildings, then British Army engineers would put up temporary huts or even tents.
  • You can also see from this source that the unit is relieved several times during the month of November. Soldiers spent about 60% of their time behind the lines.
  • For much of the war, British soldiers spent a lot of time resting or carrying out relatively safe duties like repairing trenches, moving supplies or cleaning kit. The British Army had welfare officers whose job it was to make sure that units spent the minimum possible time in the firing line. On average, a soldier would spend 4-5 days per month in the firing line, in shifts of 2-3 days.
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